Full steam ahead for global climate protection

UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal

Josef Göppel, Member of the German Bundestag, Environment Policy Spokesman for the CSU, Representative of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group on the Committee on the Environment of the German Bundestag, on the occasion of the beginning of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal.

Berlin, 02. December 2005 - How can we break down the wall of indifference which exists regarding the changes to the earth's climate? Life is already hard enough, I am often told. Do you environmentalists have to deprive us of the only small pleasures we have left: cheap flights, fast cars, handy disposal items? None of your horror scenarios are even proved and they're a long way off in any case!

It is true that, so far in Germany, it is mainly farmers and forest owners who are affected by extreme climate events; so far the urban population is not under threat. Likewise, figures concerning insurance claims made to the major reinsurers no more enter our consciousness than do lottery numbers if we haven't bought a ticket: $60 billion worldwide in 2005, the highest level of insurance ever paid out for atmospheric-induced damage. The next highest record is also from recent years: in 2004, a total of $40 billion was paid out. At the same time, prices of raw materials are rising to unprecedented levels. Even scrap iron is currently selling for $200 per metric ton. Oil prices have doubled over the last 18 months. Should we wait until these problems are regulated by the markets? This is the talk of cynics. Politicians who continue to delay the implementation of a determined climate protection strategy are violating their oath of office, in which they promised to protect the people from harm! It is true that climate change cannot destroy the ecosystem, yet it can destroy human civilisation. Today, already, 50 to 100 million people are threatened by a lack of drinking water. Were temperatures to rise by two degrees, this number would triple. Where will these people go?

There is no sensible alternative to lowering consumption of raw materials and energy. Otherwise, the way in which settlements are currently distributed across the world will not be sustainable for much longer. Anyone currently under 40 years of age would have to expect to experience dramatic migration flows.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal is the first such conference to take place since the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and the first to take place on North American soil. Montreal is intended to be the first step towards the negotiations which will create the framework for international climate protection after 2012. The goal of the German delegation is for Montreal to conclude with a formal mandate for negotiations. As we know, it was the 1995 Berlin Mandate which set in motion the negotiations which led, in 1997, to the Kyoto Protocol. Concrete reduction targets for the time after 2012 cannot be expected in Montreal, but a timetable for a follow-up agreement can be expected. This is supported by most EU states, together with Canada, Norway, several South-American states and South Africa. China is at least aware of the problem. The role of Tony Blair is unclear. In 2004, he was the driving force within the G8: Now, he is determined to get the US on board. It appears that he is prepared to abandon a great deal of that which has been achieved to this end. We Germans are pushing for the adoption of a follow-up agreement. Yet is seems doubtful whether this can be achieved by 2008. Presidential elections are due to take place in the USA at the end of 2008. Many allies of the US are cautious about signing anything binding before then. In addition, there is a possibility that a new US government might come on board in 2009. What is clear is that non-binding agreements on technology transfer, like those being promoted by the USA, will not suffice!

The framework laid down in the German government programme is, thankfully, clear on this point. We intend

  • to seek to achieve, by 2009, an international climate protection agreement for the time after 2012, which builds on the Kyoto Protocol;
  • to seek to ensure that other industrial nations and economically advanced newly industrialised countries are part of a new climate protection agreement and that they make commitments in line with their capacities;
  • to propose that the EU commits itself, in the framework of the international climate protection negotiations, to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from their 1990-levels by a total of 30% by 2020. Assuming this is the case, Germany will seek to achieve a reduction in emissions greater than 30%.
  • to adequately include air traffic in the system of emissions trading.

Germany will maintain its leading role in climate protection. The grand coalition is taking a new approach in its relationship to the developing countries. We will move forward a new partnership between industrial nations and developing countries, one aimed at an ambitious modernisation of energy supply to increase energy efficiency and at expansion of the renewable energy sector. The intention is for this partnership to complement a binding climate protection agreement, on no account to substitute such an agreement.

The concrete measures which we take in our own country will remain decisive for the credibility of our climate protection policy.

  • We will increase the share of electricity produced from renewables to at least 20% by 2020 and the proportion of overall energy consumption provided for by renewables to at least 10%.
  • We will retain the basic structure of the Renewable Energies Sources Act. We will adapt fee rates, degressive steps and support periods in line with the development of individual renewable energies. In the wind energy field, we will concentrate on renewing older installations and on offshore generation.
  • We will intensify the export initiative for renewable energies.
  • We will make better use of the market potential of renewable energies in the generation of thermal energy by continuing the market incentive programme on the current scale, as well as through a law on the use of renewables for heating purposes.
  • We will work steadily to improve the energy efficiency of the economy, with the goal of doubling energy productivity from 1990 levels by the year 2020.
  • We will double support in the framework of the CO2 building modernisation programme compared with 1990 levels to 1.5bn euros per year and significantly improve the programme's attractiveness (switch to a system of investment grants, tax benefits and inclusion of rented accommodation). Our goal is to ensure energy-efficiency modernisation measures are carried out in 5% of buildings per year.
  • We will introduce an "energy passport" for buildings.
  • We will increase the proportion of biofuels to 5.75% of total energy consumption by 2010.

How can we live just as well - or better - than today whilst reducing consumption of natural resources to 20% of current levels?

This remains a central undertaking for the future. The main challenge we face is to increase value added whilst using less materials and energy!